Sunday 21 March – Stone Ages

I didn’t post a blog last week as the previous 7 days had not been the most productive.  The blog I did post on 7th March ended with me saying that the forecast was predicting a period of stormy weather that would dictate what I managed to achieve.  As it turned out, there were a number of unpleasant windy days that kept us huddled up either in the house or changing over the gîtes as this spring has continued to be encouraging with the number of new guests we have welcomed to Kergudon.

My last blog said that I had made a start on reducing the height of the hedges bordering the orchard and the driveway.  It took me another couple of days to complete this and we have taken the opportunity not only to reduce the height of the hedge behind our tropical bed but to reduce it fairly dramatically in width.  Evidently I am not severe enough in my cutting and this hedge had become very wide, more so at the top than the base – the complete opposite of how it should be.  As this is the ideal time to be a bit harsh we have cut hard into it which makes it look a little bare now but in a few weeks’ time it should have lots of new growth and make a much better shape.

Cutting it down created a lot of green waste that we spent an afternoon shredding to use as mulch.  One of the best bits of garden kit we have bought since being here is a petrol powered garden shredder.  It has been a brilliant investment.  As we have nowhere to compost as yet, and we are discouraged from having a bonfire, we usually have to take all green waste to the déchetterie.  As we create a lot of green waste this means lots of car trips for us generating pollution and wasting a valuable resource.

We bought the shredder when we had the sycamores felled in 2019 and it has more than paid for itself.  What we paid to buy it was less than what we would have had to pay the tree surgeon to either take away all the branches or for him to shred them onsite just for that one job. As we have used it on lots of other branches since and we have generated huge amounts of amazing mulch it has paid for itself and benefited the flower beds.

The mulch suppresses the weeds, prevents the moisture from evaporating and, by slowly composting on the bed, adds lots of goodness to the soil.  It is amazing how quickly even a thick layer of mulch rots down so we have used the hedge shreddings to refresh the beds in the orchard – they look great.

Orchard hedge reduced in height and the cuttings shredded and used to mulch the bed

The only other significant outdoor work was me giving the bank opposite our entrance on Hent Gorreker its annual clear.  This is where, last spring, we had planted a number of rhododendron plants that our neighbour had kindly given us so that, hopefully, in years to come it will be an attractive bank of flower that would suppress the bramble, bracken and other weed.

As last spring was so dry, and the new plants so small, the bramble, bracken and other weed looked to have been the only things to have survived so I was delighted when I cleared it to find 7 of the plants still there, hopefully having had a busy year putting on lots of root growth.

Annual clearance of the bank opposite our driveway entrance – amazing some of the rhododendron babies have survived

This week has been a little more productive, albeit focussed on a single task. That task is a great example of mission creep and how easy it is for work to expand.  I had anticipated it to take 2 days at the most, but I have been doing it for 4 and is likely to need another 2 to complete totally.

It has been to rebuild the talus at the south end of the orchard that borders Hent Gorreker.   A few week’s ago I showed that the talus had suffered a minor collapse probably as a result of years of freeze / thaw action, roots growing between the stones and previous owners removing stones probably for other projects.

As I had to rebuild the wall we thought we would take the opportunity to widen the access to Stable (as that is where the wall is) which has always been tight.  While manageable it did take most drivers a number of to’s and fro’s to negotiate the gap and, over New Year someone had evidently scraped and dislodged some stones.  They didn’t tell us so hopefully their car was relatively unscathed – my money’s on the solid slate coming off better!

To do this I needed to cut the hedge back hard – more lonicera so pretty accommodating and should recover quickly – and move the end of the wall back a couple of feet.  This is where the mission creep started.  By dismantling the end of the wall and where it had collapsed, it was obvious that much of it was pretty unstable and would benefit from being demolished and rebuilt along a greater length.

These old talus were originally built with a stone face on both sides with the core in between filled with small stones and soil.  It didn’t help that that both the inside face and on the top along much of its length, other than where it was ‘protected’ by an old willow tree, it had been stripped of the facing stones making it more vulnerable and leaving an odd tall section where the interior stones survived although precariously balanced.

Also, the original wall had been built around 3 huge boulders (quartz?) which, while attractive, where such an odd shape it was, and is, difficult to get other stones securely around them.  As these boulders are so heavy there was no way I would be able to move them, so I decided to demolish as much as I could and rebuild around these rocks.

I decided not to build in the same manner and rather than create 2 faces, I have just built the exterior side, facing Hent Gorreker, and have provided support on the inside with a bank of earth.  I’ve done this principally because it was much quicker, but also because it ties in with what remained.  Also, by digging out as much slate on the inside as I could, have gained lots of stone that I need for the next really major project – although that won’t happen for at least 6 months I won’t say too much about it now!

Digging our as much slate as I could from the rear of the talus

I am really pleased with the result.  I need to add a couple more trailer loads of soil and, as you may be able to see from the photos we have cut down the protective willow and a Christmas tree a previous owner had planted behind the wall, so there is lots more shredding to do – and more mulch to create!  While it is sad to cut down trees, the pine was just the wrong tree in that place and the willow had 3 separate, oddly shaped, trunks none of which were straight.  Both trees were also directly underneath power lines that meant they would need frequent cutting to prevent a problem and, as they were too large for me to do, we would have had to contract someone else.

It has left the orchard a little open at the minute, although not in a position that overlooks any accommodation, and has made an electricity pole a little more obvious.  However, we have ordered lots more hedging plants that we will add to the top of the wall to mirror those we have planted on the Stable side and so make an attractive hedge all the way across the front.

The neater frontage to Kergudon from Hent Gorreker

Having cut down the trees that were there, during the week we bought a number of other plants to replace them that I will get in the ground early next week.  All more attractive and interesting than what we have taken out.

Lots of new plants for the orchard

One of these plants is one that is special to us, and we will tell you why next week when we show you it planted.

I longer blog than anticipated (makes up for last week!) and lots to do next week to totally complete this project which we will show you next Sunday.